Uncover your inner athlete!

Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be eaten.. Each morning in Africa a lion awakes - it knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve.

No matter if you are the lion or the gazelle, when the sun comes up you had better be running!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Poetry for the ultra distance runner

Many people know of my love for poetry and the fact that I was an avid writer of poetry. Over the past few years, I have shifted to books, but for some reason thought today would be a great time to post my favourite poem. Very apt for distance runners.

The Road not Taken - Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
though as for that, the passing there
had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
in leaves no feet had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference

Internet shopping part 2

The great wait for your goodies is always the most agonising and irritating part of internet shopping. As stated before, I love shopping on the net, not only because in most instances the prices are better, but also because of the convenience factor and the fact that I don’t have to deal with an annoying salesperson who is going to try and sell me something (often at a great commission rate) that I just don’t want or need.

The wait is however a small tradeoff for paying less and being able to shop whenever you feel like it. Plus as a friend described it to me – once you get the package, it is almost like getting a present, even though you know what you are receiving.

Running together – stride for stride on a life changing ride. – Sean Muller

Monday, March 28, 2011

Not squashing childhood enthusiasm

Out on my morning run today, I came across something quite bizarre. A mother was pushing her child in a buggy to the local school and he clearly did not want to be in that buggy. Aside from the fact that it is my personal opinion that he was too old to be in a pram, he was kicking up a fuss and whinging about wanting to run. In the end she just let him out of the pram and I watched as he jogged and ran the remaining 400-500m to the crèche.

Now how it is that she was not letting him run in the first place is beyond me. It clearly is the healthier way for the child and if he wants to run, then I say let him run as long as it is in a safe environment. If it was the case that the mum could not keep up with him, then perhaps it is a reality check that she get a bit fitter herself and if she was afraid that he may fall over and skin his knees, then I thought that that was what childhood was all about. Sometimes you fall over and graze yourself and sometimes you may even break a bone or two, but largely sticking the child in cottonwool is going to nothing for his/her self confidence and if they have a particular affinity towards something (as this little boy had to running), then you may even be killing off that avenue of creativity.

Running together – stride for stride on a life changing ride. – Sean Muller

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Keeping feet dry - running in the rain

My sister gifted me some Nike dri fit trainer socks as part of my Christmas presents this year and again a few weeks ago. Now I hate to just give athletic companies a plug for free, but these things definitely work in the wet and dry. It is my understanding that this technology was created to help people whose feet sweat a lot, but I have discovered that these little babies also work very well in the torrential rain conditions that we have been experiencing in Sydney over the past few days. An absolute Godsend to be running through huge puddles yet having the feet stay nice and dry.

Not sure how prevalent they are in stores in Australia as mine were all sent from the UK and US, but they are well worth a little more money than standard socks in my view. I have also ordered a pair of Nike Compression dri fit long socks and will let you know in due course how I get on with those.

As per yesterday, I would be interested to hear how others get on with these sorts of socks.

Running together – Stride for stride on a life changing ride. – Sean Muller

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Long socks and long distance

Anyone who knows me knows that although I am no world champion, I am keen to try any and all methods to improve performance and assist with my own running and also to help improve my knowledge for coaching purposes.

I have for some time now been hearing from friends (especially those who are approaching middle age) about the benefits of running in full compression tights or in compression socks. They have endorsed some of the studies that I have been reading about the compression having a benefit of delaying or reducing the build up of lactate in the legs and hence allowing that turn point to occur later and later in long runs.

One friend in his 50s ran a sub 9 hour Comrades last year in tights and reckoned that without those compression tights he would not have been walking normally the day afterwards. My recent experiments with long socks are that although they look slightly stupid and dorky, they do help me with my long runs and I shall be wearing during this year’s Comrades marathon to give them a proper tryout. As for the long tights, I have only done a few shorter runs in them and although I believe that they work, I find them to be slightly constrictive over my knees when I run.

I would be keen to hear of any experiences that you may have with these sorts of compression garments.

Running together – stride for stride on a life changing ride! – Sean Muller

Friday, March 25, 2011

The power of the mind in all ages

Yesterday I inadvertently stumbled across a community talk at my local library being given to old people about how to prevent a fall. Usually I attend these evening briefings as it is always a mixed bag of presenters – most of the time authors, but then in the past I have been fortunate enough to hear some sports personalities as well as inspirational people like young Jessica Watson.

I stayed for the talk despite not being in the category that they were targeting and found it most interesting. There were three speakers (a nurse from a hospital, a physio who deals exclusively with the elderly and a psychologist). Of all three the one that I took the most from was the psychologist as she spoke about mental blocks being the biggest hurdle for old people after they have fallen, they become ever more hesitant to perform that activity as they are in fear of things recurring.

Now being no expert in this field, I could however relate to some of the internal mental demons that runners face and obsess over. I know many who obsess over the weather – this is useless creative energy being burned as you can’t change things. The only thing you could do is pull out of the race, otherwise you put it out of your head and race as best you can.

Staying in that positive frame of mind is integral for everything. My own belief is that society instils self doubt in to us and we start to question what it is that we can do. If on the other hand we were never told that 90 was old and that we should then be in a retirement village, imagine what we could do with that power. I only think of the elderly Raramuri in Mexico who still cover up to 100KM a day on foot. The main key thing is that they have not been told that they are old and should be scaling things back, hence they carry on doing exactly as they did when they were younger.

I was witness to a similar power in the form of a galloping granny the other day who emerged from a bush trail the other day on my long run. I am not sure where she came from, but she had some serious running ability and although looking like she was in her 70s, was still very comfortable at a sub 5 minute per kilometre pace.

Running together – stride for stride (while turning back the clock) on a life changing ride. – Sean Muller

Monday, March 21, 2011

The online dilemma

Many of us have been faced with the ever increasing cost of local running shoes and clothing. I mention shoes first and foremost as I think that we are getting really ripped off by the likes of the sports stores here in Australia. The dilemma that we then face is do we continue to be ripped off or do we instead seek out cheaper prices on overseas websites.

Plenty of people have merely voted with their dollar and go with the cheapest one, but I am slightly different. I have no trouble in supporting local Australian businesses if the price differential is variable, but as I found out recently when buying new shoes, there is in some instances as much as $150 difference if you order online. That is a lot of money and money that I could be spending on something else to be honest.

I know that each economy faces these problems and I would be keen to hear from others how they feel about these massive price differences.

Running together – stride for stride on a life changing ride! – Sean Muller

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Using exercise as a form of peaceful protest

In proof that it takes absolutely all sorts in this world, I have stumbled on to this lot who were protesting world dependence on oil through staging a naked bike ride. Now I know that this blog is about running and improving your running, but I thought this too good to resist. Good on them for bringing this important issue to the fore.

So much has the movement of naked bike riding grown since early days in Canada that most major cities and countries are hosting at least one if not more per year. This may not be for everyone and some of the images may offend some, but I thought this video of the event in London in 2009 shows just how many people are partaking in this movement. It is truly amazing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Where will your mind take you?

Imagine if you could talk yourself and think yourself into better running times and stronger performances as well as healing injury quickly. After much reading and research, it is my firm belief that the next lot of improvements in times and performances will come from those that are effectively able to harness the power of their own minds.

It is a common fact that we all only use single digit percentages of our brains to perform daily tasks and even the really smart only make about 9% usage. What then of the other parts of the brain that are dormant. Are they destined to remain as such for the rest of our days, or is there a way for us to be able to unlock and activate them in order to drive an even further increase in athletic performance.

In my own opinion, we are indeed coming to the end of what we as humans can produce on mere physicality alone. We must be prepared to embrace these alternate ways of harnessing the mind in order to produce improved results.

There is a myriad of publications out there in the market that claim to be able to help us as runners and athletes, it is not easy finding those publications or techniques that suit us and our personalities, but I encourage you to not let this side of things lapse. Be prepared to experiment as you would with training plans. To some it may be a long shot, but just think at what you would achieve if you are able to tap into this unknown side of the brain.

Running together –stride for stride on a life changing ride. – Sean Muller

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The magic of tea

As you sit and sip on your morning cup of tea, consider the ample benefits that the simple cup of tea holds for us as humans and runners.

Tea is extremely high in anti-oxidants and particular types of tea (mainly green and rooibos teas) have a very calming effect on us. In fact many serious athletes that I have spoken to have taken to drinking a cup of green tea prior to each big event. This not only calms the nerves, but also helps with the digestion process of the meal that they will have consumed prior to competing.

Green tea is also packed with many good free radical fighting anti-oxidants which help to ward off the nasty things that can lead to cancer.

The marathon monks of Mount Hiei are renowned for being people who complete their very arduous marathon walks drinking at times only green tea for days on end while meditating and not sleeping. They achieve a much higher level on consciousness than the rest of us and although it continues to astound western medical experts as to how they survive, it is testament to the power of the mind and the virtues of the tea that they consume.

Black tea has also been put forward by many ultra runners as a method of hardening up the feet for the many miles spent running. Soaking ones feet in black tea is not something that I have tried, but if I ever decided to attempt a 100 miler or some such longer race, then I would definitely consider doing so.

As is so often said, we are all experiments of one and I encourage you to undertake some of these experiments and to revert with your findings.

Running together – stride for stride on a life changing ride! – Sean Muller

Monday, March 7, 2011

The courage to just give things a go

This morning I was chatting to two random ladies who I met at the gym, both expressing a wish to complete a half marathon this year. In itself this is great news and I only wish that more male friends of mine would also consider the same. A half marathon is after all very achievable for all those that wish to run it and can give one a real sense of accomplishment at the end.

I think back to my first half marathon and quite frankly afterwards I was broken and could not walk for a while. I did persist though and out of it has emerged a love and desire to continue running.

There was also a lady who used to work with me a few years ago who is a mother to three children and in her 50s with a high stress successful career. We were able to convince her to do some training and to have a belief that she could complete a half marathon (that is all she wanted- she had no desire to race, just to run and complete it for a sense of satisfaction). When she completed it, her joy and relief was massive and she just lit up from accomplishment. She even proclaimed it one of the best days of her life.

This was so amazing to be part of and further proof to me as to why I continue to associate with the sport of athletics. In some ways it is a selfish sport and most of it is done by oneself, but in so many other ways it is so rewarding as it helps to test and push one to the limits of what one can do as an individual instead of having perhaps some members of a team to carry you.

Running together – stride for stride on a life changing ride! – Sean Muller

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Are we taking steps backwards?

It was on my run this morning that I was thinking about how we in road running around the world seem to be taking some weird steps backwards despite having better technology in the form of heart rate monitors and Garmins etc and better sports nutrition powders and shakes as well as fancy gels and sports drinks and the like.

I think that these products definitely have their place on the road running circuit, but they in themselves won’t make us run better or faster unless we put in the hard yakka and run faster.

There is no disputing the fact that marathon times on average have started to get slower over the last couple of decades in spite of the increase in scientific knowledge and supposed invention of new and better shoes and gimmicks. Less people are running sub 3 hours despite the growth of fields into the tens of thousands for some races.

How then did people like Arthur Newton and the early pedestrians perform their remarkable feats of endurance? Indeed how to did Captain Barclay manage his 1000miles in 1000 hours in the 1700s with only his honour as a gentleman and a bet with a fellow gent at stake?

I don’t have answers to this other than to say that Newton knew what worked in the 1920s, he just did not have the science to back it up. Captain Barclay and co had less of a handle of what worked. They just ran off massive heart and the old fashioned pride and refusal to throw in the towel. That and the odd barrel of wine to put some fire in the belly as well as a servant who would wake him with a stick every time he fell asleep.

Personally I would like to see the old 1000 in 1000 resurrected for kicks and giggles in our age and see how many could finish it.

A ramble, but then again that is the mood that Sam is in today.

Running together – stride for stride on a life changing ride! – Sean Muller

Friday, March 4, 2011

Is this the toughest man on the planet?

My fascination peaked again on Sunday with the Badwater Ultra when I heard that a couple of friends running in the Centennial Park Ultra 100km were taking part in that this year. Badwater is one of those events that you just have to tip your hat to those taking part. It is one of those gruelling events that even I as an ultra runner of some description would not think to phathom. In fact only the true toughest of the toughest need apply for that one.

In recent readings of the event, I stumbled across the exploits of the great Marshall Ulrich and what he has been able to achieve over the course of his life at this great event. The ordinary punter (and I use that term very loosely as anyone in this race is very tough!) has a crew to manage their fluids and eating patterns and to keep them moving forwards in the tough parts of the race. As with any ultra event, the job of the crew is to do everything that the runner can’t on the day!

Ulrich decided though in 1999 to rewrite history and also defy what man is capable of yet again, when he took on the event solo with no crew and proceeded to drag a modified cart rickshaw style across the course. The cart contained all of the supplies that he required for the journey.

The rules of the 200 plus KM race were rewritten now to accommodate his exploits. As such the following are the rules for any solo attempts:

1. No IVs.

2. No aid of any kind from an outside source and/or person.

3. No using any shelter other than nature’s shade (i.e., boulders, creosote bushes, trees, etc.).

4. You must have everything from start to finish: food, clothing, equipment, and all necessary water. If a water source along the course is available, it cannot be used.

5. Trailers or any other apparatus are allowed as long as that apparatus is pushed, pulled, or carried. No motorized trailers. The trailer or apparatus can be disposed of only at the Lone Pine Junction (the intersection of Whitney Portal Road and Hwy. 395) or the Whitney trailhead.

6. With the exception of water, nothing can be disposed of along the way, not even trash.

7. Medical emergencies must be dealt with and/or administered by the individual only. No help or supplies can be used from an outside source.

8. Only a.m. starts are valid.

9. No leaving the course is allowed; you must remain on the course at all times.

10. There must be at least one person monitoring the above compliances at all times.

I have been unable to find any records of others doing similar things, putting him alone at the top of the elite group. The estimated weight he was dragging was 120Kgs along the course. I encourage you to read more of his exploits as this will surely motivate even the most unmotivated person. This man is a source of consistent inspiration for me.

Running together – stride for stride on a life changing ride! – Sean Muller